Pro Bowlers May Be Browns Already

The lack of Pro Bowl-quality talent is one of the reasons why Phil Savage was brought in to serve as the Browns new GM. Regardless, don't write off the current Browns, writes Frank Derry, who feels that the team already has a number of possible Pro Bowlers. Frank tells you who he thinks can make the jump in his latest weekly column...

Unfortunately for Butch Davis, his four drafts as dictator of the Cleveland Browns won't have a chance to bear fruit until his replacement is well entrenched as the 10th full-time head coach in team history.

The question is, will any of Davis's picks become Pro Bowl players?

The fact none have done so up until this point is a big reason as to why Browns owner Randy Lerner insisted upon bringing in a general manager.

Phil Savage, hired just a few days after the '04 season mercifully ended, will be running the 2005 draft for the Browns. He has a proven track record from his days with Baltimore. In his nine years as director of college scouting and player development director, the Ravens had 10 players selected for the Pro Bowl.

In case you're scoreboard watching, that's RAVENS 10, BROWNS 0.

Chances are good that one or more of Davis's draft picks will earn a ticket to Hawaii if the team starts winning. Of course, that's a huge "IF."

One such player is tight end Kellen Winslow Jr., who probably has the best chance based upon his college credentials. Unfortunately, Winslow's rookie season ended in Week Two due to a broken leg, but most experts firmly believe the 2004 first-round selection will be the first impact player drafted by the new Browns.

Another oft-injured player with a possible Pro Bowl future is running back Lee Suggs, who has clearly moved ahead of 2002 first-round draft choice William Green as the Browns' featured running back.    

Andra Davis also has done a solid job at middle linebacker and, if he continues to improve, will open some eyes if he ever finds himself on a winning team. Likewise for wide receiver Andre Davis.

Finally, and you'd better sit down for this one, the guy who I think has a legitimate shot at the Pro Bowl within the next few years is strong-side linebacker Chaun Thompson.

Yes, you read that right!

Thompson, the team's second-round draft choice out of tiny West Texas A&M in 2003, made huge strides in his first full season of action in 2004.

One Browns insider called Thompson "a poor man's Jamir Miller."

Just to have his name mentioned in the same breath as Miller is a compliment for Thompson. Miller, in the team's first six years since their return, remains the only Browns player to earn a Pro Bowl invitation, but he arrived in Cleveland as a free agent, not a draft pick.

"Right now, the only thing Miller could do very well that Thompson is still improving upon is his ability to back up and make plays," the insider continued. "He is very good at going forward, but he still needs to work on going back on plays."

Terry Robiskie, who never paid much attention to the Browns' defense until he was named interim head coach, liked what he saw from Thompson over the final five games. He says Thompson, who many people thought was a "reach" as a second-rounder, absolutely has the potential to live up to his lofty draft status.

"The potential is definitely there," Robiskie said. "For Chaun, it is a matter of learning how to pace himself; how to slow down a little bit and hit the gaps he is supposed to be in as opposed to flying to the ball on every play.

"Chaun wants to make every play. His concept is the only way to make the play is go to where he thinks the ball goes. But sometimes the ball isn't there and that's when he gets in trouble."

Robiskie continued, "Chaun is getting better every day, but he still has a lot to learn. He is a guy who we think, as he grows, can become a play-maker for us. But he still has a ways to go. He has a ways to go to figure out the whole concept."

For example, in the Sunday night loss to the Dolphins, Thompson was blitzing from the backside. But as part of that blitz, it was his responsibility to get up high to cover the outside. Instead, he dipped down inside. The Dolphins had a reverse called that went for a nice gain because Thompson didn't take the right route.

"He came to sideline and I grabbed him and yelled at him and told him about it,' Robiskie said. "He got upset at me, which was all right because I was upset at him.

"Before the very next series, I went over and grabbed him by the arm and told him to get out on the field and make a play for me. He ended up recovering the fumble that Gerard Warren caused. He ran to the sideline and handed me the ball and said, `Here, this is for you.' "

Thompson is confident he will show people he was worthy of being a second-round draft choice. "I know I can live up to my draft status," he said. "I have the determination and desire. If you want to be good, you can be good in this league, but it isn't going to come easy. You have to work for it. They aren't going to give it to you."

Thompson found that to be a fact when he didn't get to start a single game as a rookie. It was disappointing at the time, but probably best in the long run.

"You come in and you want to play and when you don't play, you kind of wonder, `What am I doing wrong?' " Thompson recalled.

"But it just wasn't my time. The coaches felt maybe I just needed to get my feet wet. It helped me a great deal because it let me get the speed of the game down. It let me realize just how physical the NFL game is."

And so, after making just four tackles as a rookie, he finished this past season with 80 tackles, sixth-most on the team. He also had 2 ½ sacks and the one recovered fumble.

Thompson also is a mainstay on the special teams and had eight tackles this past season

"I really enjoy special teams," he said. "You have a whole lot of freedom. You just run as fast as you can and hit someone as hard as you can."

As he found out very quickly, those are things you cannot do on the defensive side of the ball. The ability to play under control will be huge as Thompson tries to impress yet another coach.

"I had a different position coach every year in college and now in my first two years here, I have had a different position coach both years," he said. "Some year, I'd like to have the same coach for two straight years."

And some year he'd like to make it to the Pro Bowl. It might very well be that the two will go hand-in-hand.

The OBR Top Stories